AFN National Chief Calls on UN to Investigate Canada’s Role in Residential Schools

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald on Monday called on the United Nations to open an investigation into Canada’s possible role in human rights abuses associated with residential schools.

Archibald said she wants the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, along with other UN officials, to investigate Canada’s role in the residential school system in response to the reported discovery near former residential school sites hundreds of unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of children.

“I don’t call them schools anymore because no school I attended had children buried in unmarked graves,” Archibald said.

“Canada and other UN member states must not look the other way.”

Archibald said she is seeking full redress, including criminal prosecution, penalties and other remedies.

A child’s dress hangs from a cross blowing in the wind near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

She made the request during the 21st session of the United Nations Permanent Forum at UN Headquarters in New York. She also sent a written request to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

At a press conference at the assembly, Archibald highlighted the discovery of more than 200 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc., and more than 700 more near the former Marieval residential school in the Cowessess First Nation.

“Canada must not be allowed to investigate on its own,” Archibald said.

“Please help make sure something like this never happens again. Not just for us, but for anyone.”

Canada would not block UN investigation, justice minister says

In the last federal budget, Ottawa set aside $10.4 million over two years for Justice Canada to appoint a special interlocutor to work with Indigenous peoples to protect and preserve unmarked gravesites.

Justice Minister David Lametti said the interlocutor’s work would not be affected by a UN investigation.

“We never said we would ever prevent this kind of request if the UN decided to do so,” Lametti said.

“We will always cooperate with the United Nations.”

Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti said the federal government would cooperate with a UN investigation. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Along with the UN, Archibald lobbied the International Criminal Court to launch its own investigation into the residential schools case for gross human rights violations.

Archibald said any review of Canada and residential schools must be impartial and independent.

She said the RCMP cannot be involved since they took Aboriginal children from their families to attend residential schools.

Over 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s until the last school closed in 1997.

Archibald said the intergenerational trauma of schools still affects survivors and their descendants, many of whom are not fluent in their Indigenous languages.

“These institutions were designed to kill the Indian in the child,” she said.